THE BEGINNING OF STUDEBAKER OWNERS CLUB UK
It has been said that Studebaker owners are individualists so for the most part, owners have tended to do their own thing. Mainly in the south of England there was a growing appreciation of Studebaker as a marque and 30 to 40 years ago four or five individuals were becoming specialists. However, although most Stude owners were aware of the others there was no coordination which is necessary to start a club. Many American car owners belong to the Pre50 American Auto Club as that has the best displays covering all decades of cars. In recent years an effort was made to bring Studebaker owners together at the Rally of the Giants held at Knebworth in July. This resulted in an annual photo shoot in which the owners were more important than their Studebaker cars.
Through visits to the Studebaker International Meets in the US and the encouragement received there in particular by Harry Barnes, Denny Lockmon and other Studebaker Drivers Club officers, the pressure was on to consolidate all this UK interest in Studes!
Norah and Harry Barnes at the first meeting of Studebaker Owners Club at the home of Doug and Liz Priston in 1997
It was fortunate that a long time member of SDC and also past President and Editor by the name of Karl Haas was now living in the Coventry area. Who better to spearhead the needed work! The rest as they say is history. Dozens of letters were sent out to known Studebaker owners during the early part of 1997 starting with those already in SDC over here. Many replied positively to the need for a proper local club to consolidate the swell of interest and affection for things Studebaker. At the Pre50 Rally of the Giants in August 1997 an announcement was made of a meeting for those interested in Studebakers to get together. This was well attended by about eighteen people who all pledged their support through dues to the formation of a club. The following month coinciding with a visit by Harry Barnes and his wife Norah, a start up meeting was held to decide on the name of the club, set dues and other details.
Our first meeting - left to right: Doug Priston, Liz Priston, Mike Sandy, Denny Lockman, Arthur Melrose, Jan Lockman
The first of the promised six newsletters entitled “Stude News” went out in Sept/Oct 1997, to about two dozen Stude owners who had already joined the new club with about another sixty sent to prospective members. Most of the Classic Car press sat up and showed interest and were glad to print part of our News Release. The high point of our year was when one of the producers of the BBC “Top Gear” team approached the club to recommend a first class Avanti for their forthcoming programme. Who better than the car owned by Paul Eccles, one of the SOC UK founder members and currently the club President!
It took only until March of the following year 1998 for “SOC-UK” to be granted “Chapter” status by Studebaker Drivers Club, the first such application and granting in the whole of Europe! Membership continued to grow into the seventies and at the Rally of the Giants that year, the two dozen plus Stude owners had such a good variety of cars and trucks present, they walked off with the “Best Club Stand” cup and £50 prize money, judged by “Classic American” magazine who especially noted the members’ camaraderie!
The club has continued to grow and new members are joining regularly along with their cars, often these are newly imported. Many of them are newly restored Studebakers never before seen in the United Kingdom. The Club is also keeping members up to date with a vibrant and developing web-site and regular magazines.